[Note: This article starts with a fairly lengthy preamble about my first encounter with the Canelé and some of the common challenges in making them. If you know what you’re doing, feel free to jump straight to the recipe]
The first time I had Canelés, it really left an impression because it wasn’t at a fancy bakery or anywhere in France but instead it was on a busy Friday mid afternoon at the office. Everyone had their heads down and headphones in, desperately bashing away at the keyboard with the hope of wrapping up before 5 o’clock to commence the weekend with an obligatory visit to the bar.
It wasn’t long before my own concentration broke as I noticed colleagues were no longer sitting beside me but are instead crowding around the “usual place” – a typical feature of the workplace cake culture. This kind of commotion isn’t the norm. Cakes and tarts are good but not usually worthy of such congregation, not less taking precious time away from that 5 o’clock finish. It is a little bit like Usain Bolt stopping for cake during the 100 metres! I soon found out why though, these little blobs of custard pastry didn’t only taste amazing but also looked and smelled the part too. Together with a slight crunchy exterior and soft interior, it wasn’t just food, it was a multi-sensory experience!
This set me off on a journey to discover the secrets behind the elusive Canelé. Little did I know that this would be a long and arduous one but I am glad proud to say I am mostly there. As you will notice, the recipe does not call for many ingredients but there are a number other factors (techniques, equipment, etc.) which could affect the final look and texture of the product which, much like the macaron, is the mark of a good Canelé. The good news is that the taste is largely consistent so you will always have something delicious to munch on.
Of course the challenges of the Canelé are well documented. The two most common issues by far, which I’ve come across many times myself, are uneven browning on the very top and ballooning at the bottom of the Canelé. Each recipe seem to have their own tips and tricks to deal with these issues but whether they work or not seems largely to be anecdotal. What I have posted below is what works for me and I hope works for you too. I would definitely recommend taking a look at how others (Serious Eats, ChefSteps, Chowhound, Bruno’s Kitchen to name a few I’ve found useful) are approaching this and do some experimenting. As usual, trial and error is key to technical bakes like the Canelé so don’t give up!
You may have noticed the “part 1” in the title. This is because as I’ve said, I managed to stumble onto a routine that works for me but to truly master the Canelé I need a deeper understanding of how the “other factors” are affecting the recipe. So expect a follow up with lengthy discussions into moulds, resting times, white oil, etc.!
- 225g Caster sugar
- 125g Plain flour
- 25g Corn flour
- 500ml Full fat milk (~3.5% fat content)
- 45g Butter
- 7.5ml Vanilla extract or paste
- 60g Egg yolk
- 30ml Spiced rum
Step 1: Prepare your ingredients
Start by sifting all your dry ingredients (sugar, plain and corn flour) into a large mixing bow.
Separate 60g of egg yolk (approx. 3 medium sized eggs) into a second mixing bowl.
Hint: Don’t waste food! 3 eggs should yield roughly 120g of whites, the amount you need to make a batch of espresso macarons!
Step 2: Heat it!
Do not let the milk boil!
Step 3: Beat it!
Using a whisk, beat the egg yolks together in a circular motion and continue the movement whilst pouring slowly the hot buttery milk into the mixing bowl.
This is called tempering and is a way of mixing egg yolks with hot milk without causing it to scramble.
Hint: Take your time with a slow and steady stream. You risk cooking the yolk if it is too fast. Too slow and the liquid may run down the side of the pan and go everywhere.
Step 4: Mix it!
Again, using a whisk, start mixing the milk mixture into the dry ingredient.
Continue to whisk until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated.
Leave to cool to room temperature before adding spiced rum to stop the booze from evaporating before the bake.
Hint: After you are done mixing, you can pass the batter through a sieve to filter out any clumps of flour.
Step 5: Sleep on it!
Wrap the mixing bowl in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 12 hours.
Hint: This gives the batter a chance to stablise and flavour to mature. Some recipes calls for longer resting time of up to 72 hours, others just bake straight away. Go experiment!
Step 6: Grease it!
Grease the moulds thinly by brushing the inside with melted butter before cooling upside down in the fridge.
There is much debate on what moulds to use which I will get onto in part 2 but in summary:
- Silicon – extremely difficult to achieve a dark, even coating
- Aluminium – huge improvement over silicon and mostly adequate. Most of the Canelé photos in this article are from this type of mould
- Copper – marginal improvement over aluminium but it is the holy grail of Canelé moulds. I only own 3 of these as they are very expensive!
Hint: Many recipes swear by white oil (mixture of beeswax and butter) to give it that even browning but I don’t notice much difference myself. White oil is very difficult to wash off!
Step 7: Bake it!
Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
Meanwhile, run the batter through the sieve again to remove any excess air which will minimise the ballooning issue.
Pour the batter into the greased moulds, stopping about 1cm from the top.
Bake for 1 hour.
Step 8: Om-nom-nom it!
They will be piping hot when they come out the oven so be careful! After a few minutes the Canelé should contract and release from the mould.
Tip the moulds upside down to slide them out. If they are stuck, just gently tap the moulds against a hard surface until they release.
Hint: Part of the Canelé experience is the slight crunch which will disappear when it goes stale so try to eat them the day they are baked. If you must, pop them back in the oven for 5 minutes to revitalise the Canelé.